Thursday, July 17, 2008

 

The Convention Con

Mojo recently posted an article asking if conventions are doomed -- especially in the fall out of the fiascos of Jumpcon and Fed Con USA over the last couple of months. I paid some attention to Jumpcon -- and I'm sorry, I never believed for a second that they'd be successful. They were unrealistically ambitious, and they seemed to be stuck in a time warp from the 1980s.

I think Mojo has a very good point -- the internet *has* changed the nature of fandom, and how conventions work. For years, I've noticed that new television shows don't tend to generate the "fan clubs" that I remember from my high school days. You don't NEED a local Doctor Who fan club when you can go over to the Doctor Who forum and get your Who geek on.

But there are still organizations that do good work -- even in the very difficult media-specific space. United Fan Con has been doing conventions in Massachusetts for 17 years, and they're trying to make something out of the Jumpcon disaster.

Some people think throwing conventions is easy -- get some guests in, and the fans will come. That's really not at all true. I think people want to get together face-to-face -- perhaps even more now, since you have connections with people that you mainly communicate with online. But it's not just "throw a bunch of guests together, get some merchandise, and go" -- you have to plan for more than that. And that's the problem with the people that think that they can make money on a convention -- you really can't. CONvergence is a great and successful fund raiser for the Minnesota Society for Interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy non-profit -- but it wouldn't be a successful business venture. You couldn't pay people enough to do the things they do for love...

One of the things that I'm very proud about my involvement with CONvergence is that so many people do crazy things purely for the love of it all. It irritates me when some people try to exploit that -- and we've had the occasional person that don't understand the nature of volunteering, or take advantage of the organization and community in some fashion. And that makes one tempted to get cynical at times.

I don't think conventions are dying by any means -- certainly in the Twin Cities, I think we have more conventions in 2008 than any year I can remember. And really, it's not that they're that much smaller either -- both Anime Detour and CONvergence are over 3000 people now. And while there is some overlap in audience --- it's certainly more people attending a fan-run convention in 2008 in the Twin Cities than when Minicon was at it's peak fifteen years ago.

But the challenge for those of us organizing is this -- how do we make them relevant? What is the best way to make a dealer's room?

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